At last! After searching for a couple of years, I have a source of great quality sloes. Last year I was disappointed because my quest had failed, and I had to resort to producing batches of Plum Gin & Plum Vodka instead. I shouldn’t have been concerned – this turned out to be a great experiment which produced the best liqueurs of the year, and something which I’m now making every year to come! Anyway, my quest started again early in the season, looking out for Blackthorn blossom on those chilli spring mornings. Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn tree, and blackthorn flowers very early in the season, on bushes before they’ve started even to leaf. Consequently they are very easy to spot in the spring – you’ve just got to remember where they were when it comes to pick the berries! It is said that Sloes should be picked after the first frost. This is to ensure that they have the best flavour, however it presents a number of problems, specifically that the birds, and other people looking to make their own Sloe Gin will already have got in there and stripped the bush. I waited until early September before my first picking. Having monitored the fruit since mid August, it was clear that they were nicely mature, so I took of just as many as I needed.
Purists will tell you that you need to prick every berry with a needle. I’m sorry – life’s too short. I had over 4kg of berries to process, so back to first principles. Why wait until the first frost? Why prick the berries? The skin is tough. Pricking and freezing ensures that the maceration is most effective and the sloe skins are split and the juice comes through. Alternative? Put the berries on trays in the freezer. Leave for a few days and process from frozen. Simple. Get your timing right and it should be ready by Christmas
NB: In my opinion, this recipe works much better with Gin than Vodka, which emphasizes the acidity more, so if you wish to use Vodka as a base, you might want to increase the level of sugar
Makes 900 ml
- 650g Sloes, pricked or frozen as preferred
- 120g White Sugar
- 70cl Spirit (reasonable quality Vodka or Gin, 37.5% ABV min)
- In a sterilized Kilner Jar, add the frozen sloes and sugar
- Pour over the spirit. Seal the jar and shake well
- Over the next 2-3 days, shake periodically until the sugar has dissolved, then store the jar in a dark cupboard for 3 months
- Strain the mixture through a muslin and check the sweetness – bottle up and add extra sugar if required.
- Store for another month or more before drinking
Like the bottles? Check out the Italian range at my favourite suppliers!